The V&A's spectacular celebration of costume design

Imagine one of the most iconic movie characters of all time.  Multiply by one hundred.  Mix together all kinds of genre: from 70's sci-fi to Hitchcock horror; from bosom-heaving romance to swashbuckling pirates; and from futuristic CGI fantasy to classic cultural drama – and you have some sense of the scale and depth of this autumn's major exhibition at the V&A Museum in London.


Hollywood Costume will unite over one hundred costumes designed for some of the most well loved film characters of all time, creating a fantastic show for fans of all ages while exploring the relationship between film costume and cinematic storytelling.  The exhibition spans across the ages, from Judy Garland's gingham pinafore dress as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz right up to Consolata Boyle's costumes for Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.


Boasting an inside view on Hollywood costume, this exhibition is the brainchild of senior guest curator, Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, whose many and varied creations include Harrison Ford's heroic get-up as Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Blues Brothers and Michael Jackson's Thriller.  Working with Professor Sir Christopher Frayling and expert theatre designer Keith Lodwick, Deborah has hunted down the costumes over a period of five years; in some cases retrieving them from secure bank vaults – or in the case of Uma Thurman's yellow Kill Bill cat suit, rescuing from Quentin Tarantino's garage – as part of a huge and heartfelt endeavour to collect and display the best of the best.


A selection of the treasures to go on show includes: Johnny Depp's attire as everyone's favourite rum-drenched pirate, Jack Sparrow, in Pirates Of The Caribbean (it's the very costume that he'll be wearing for the next film, too), 'the' black Givenchy dress of Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany's, Scarlett O'Hara's green velvet 'curtain' dress designed by Walter Plunkett for Gone With The Wind, the sheer white chiffon cocktail dress modelled by Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot, and the breathtaking green silk gown from Jacqueline Durran, worn by Keira Knightley's Cecilia Tallis in Atonement.  Girls, it will be glamorous dresses galore.


Meryl Streep has strong opinions about the impact of costume design, saying: "The clothes are half the battle in creating the character.  We show a great deal by what we put on our bodies."  Effortlessly mixing femme fatales with Ben Hur, cowboys with vampires (yes, that does mean Twilight), and Jessica Rabbit with Harry Potter, this exhibition promises enormous wow-factor as it reveals the truth behind this statement.  It illuminates the link between film costume and identity, the changing role of the costume designer, and the way in which characters are transformed from the page to the multi-dimensional.


When asked how they managed to narrow the choice of costumes down, Deborah explained: "I started by simply asking people to name the characters that meant the most to them.  Movies are about falling in love with characters – and these characters hold the emotional core of every film.  They're of endless fascination and the costume design plays a pivotal role in bringing them to life."


The Hollywood Costume exhibition will run from 27 October 2012 to 27 January 2013.  Advance booking is advised and available at: www.vam.ac.uk/hollywoodcostume.  Here at STUDIO, we're counting down the days!



Words by Emily Gravenor.


"The clothes are half the battle in creating the character. We show a great deal by what we put on our bodies." - Meryl Streep
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